The crowd for this year's festival might have been filled with "kiddies" but the history of Detroit music is full grown. So are the political-cultural ramifications of any "emergent" group for which this city has or ever will provide the stage. Nine years is no joke. I was reminded of the stakes as I took my fellow "Subterranean" writer to get his towed car near Detroit's incinerator. People have to live near that thing? OMIGOD! What little slice of paradise has been following me like a halo since the day I was born? The answer, regrettably, is tied up in layers of short-circuited thinking (non-thought in other words) that at this point is so engrained that it seems that it can only be begun to be rooted out by a shock to the human system.
For the last quarter century in Detroit that shock has been largely administered by dance music.
A perfect example was Friday night before the festival even began at a small event that reminded this writer that "kiddies" are Detroit's most precious resource. Alvin "DJ Munk" Hill understood that as a kid dancing to industrial and house music at Todd's on 7 Mile back in the way-day. For the last few years, he has been giving back his body-mind knowledge to another generation of Detroit kids through Detroit Summer and Youthville Detroit. This writer found Hill and Underground Resistance (UR) hosting a fundraiser at the Bohemiann National Hall for Detroit Summer students to attend this year's Allied Media Conference being held in Detorit in June. Find out about it here. Though we didn't catch Pittsburgh's DJ Shawn Rudiman of Technoir Audio or Detroit's DJ Mark Flash (even if we found out later things went bumpingly well), we did catch Viki performing a romantically noisy briefcase set before catching a bit of a multi-media spectacle by the aforementioned Hill himself. The crowd was a perfect homecoming: Noise kids, indie kids, house kids, underground kids, Ann Arbor kids, city kids, etc. As Tyvek bass player and Detroit lawyer Larry Williams reminded me (and I paraphrase here), Detroit's musical culture is too small for its members to segregate themselves by genre. Here here. Couldn't we also expand this to Detroit, the city, itself?
(And do we really have to say that only a handful in the crowd were actual high school age "kids" and that the rest proved that a youthful and expansive mind were the only prerequisites for entry?)
I know, I know, I know. I take this WAY too seriously. Have some fun, dude. It's like rock 'n' roll, right? Youth rebellion! It's totally in -- except this time with machines! I get it! No. These kids ain't no hippies. This is the story of a culture wedded to a post-rawk landscape of (de)industrialization, humancapitalism, identity (in all its guises -- see Wasacz below), marketing, pleasure, AIDS, (dis)integration, deconstruction (literary and physical), dirty stats (1,000,000+ at the first festival? Ecstasy is more dangerous than liquor?), and (wait for it) thought. Oh, and music submerged within the (existential) party matrix. In other words, this scene IS the story of Detroit since the rise/fall of Coleman A. Young. Supposed "adults" need to remember the promises unkept by the revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s. We did not integrate. Power did not equal justice. Drugs still make everyone uptight. Kids are still disparaged as mere kids. Inventive thinking is not, by-and-large, encouraged by our schools. People are still judged by the length of their hair and music (and this after 100 years of ELECTRONIC recorded music!) is still measured by folklore standards endorsed by ethnomusicologists a bazillion years ago.
(The "adults" above include the short-sighted Red Wings fan -- and I know some pretty cool, Time Stereo, noisy Red Wings fans so I'm sure this guy is an exception -- on the street who upon hearing the pulse from the Plaza loudly voiced his opinion as, "I hate techno. That s**t is nonsense. Totally repetitive. Nothing organic about it. I could program a computer to do that better." Huh? If you can, man, thEn get paid for that it! God gave you a skill!)
Put another way, the scene may be post-literate (I mean everyone down there can read but really, WHO is going to ever give me feedback on this little diatribe other than my Momma? No one cares.) but that don't mean the kids ain't thinking. So the point is, when Carl Craig plays live with jazz radical Wendell Harrison on the main stage Sunday night and a crowd of teen and twenty-somethings goes wild, the only question you need to ask is whether you were there or not, and if not, why not? (Don't know who Wendell Harrison is or what this collaboration means? Go here.) I can quibble about tons of things -- I still want to see PrinceDepecheModeYazX-102NewOrderTimbalandMojo on the main stage and I do not like putting a sizable amount of sonic eggs in the minimal techno basket -- but when I come to the festival it's about the future of Detroit.
One last pass: As Detroit's (truly integrative) music scene goes, so goes Detroit.
The kids are alright. Let us all act accordingly... for all of our sakes.